By Anna Scharf, Willamette Valley Oil Seed Producers Assn.
The 2016 canola harvest has all but wrapped up in Oregon's Willamette Valley and it was another good year - fields averaged 3,000 pounds per acre and one grower exceeded 5,000 pounds per acre. But more importantly, it was another year of successful rotational crops for Willamette Valley farmers.
This harvest marks the end of Oregon State University's (OSU's) three-year study of the valley's legislatively-restricted 500 canola acres. Although the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) will continue to limit canola to 500 acres for three additional years, those acres will not be under the review and monitoring of OSU. The Willamette Valley Oil Seed Producers Association (WVOPA) worked with the Oregon legislature in 2015 to enact this provision, which permits canola production in the Willamette Valley until OSU researchers present their findings to state lawmakers for review.
In early July, for the first time, the WVOPA sat down with the ODA and the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association (WVSSA), the entity that controls the acreage pinning map for the Willamette Valley, to establish pins for canola fields for the 2017 harvest. It proved a challenge in at least one way: the WVOPA found that producers in the valley requested over 1,000 acres to grow canola, so trimming the list down to the allowed 500 acres was a difficult task.
The upside, however, is clear: Interest in canola as a rotational crop in the Willamette Valley is growing. Several new growers jumped in this time with acre requests.
In line with this interest, the WVPOA is also working to drive the successful formation of the Pacific Northwest Canola Association, which would be modeled after other regional canola associations that work with the U.S. Canola Association (USCA). Oregon, Washington and Idaho face similar agriculture and economical challenges and the formation of this organization and the ability to work together as a region would be beneficial to everyone in the promotion and growth of the canola industry. Watch for more details to come through the USCA.
Anna Scharf helps run her family farm, Scharf Farms, in Perrydale, Ore., and is a board member of the Willamette Valley Oil Seed Producers Association.